Electronic payment technology can increase productivity and speed collections for providers, while giving consumers the electronic options they crave.
Fast-changing consumer attitudes toward healthcare payments and continuing financial difficulties for providers add up to a make-or-break year in 2023.
During the pandemic, consumers became accustomed to electronic registration, visit, and payment options that were quickly adopted by providers to deliver safe, contact-free care. Today, increasingly tech-savvy patients expect digital options offered during the pandemic to remain, and they are making care decisions based not only on cost and quality, but also on convenience.
At the same time, labor shortages and higher costs have pushed many providers to the financial brink, with many hospitals operating at significant losses. Electronic payment technology can satisfy the aims of increasing productivity and speeding collections for providers while giving consumers the electronic options they crave.
Here are seven healthcare payment trends that providers should adopt in 2023.
1. Make paperless billing a priority
Does your practice or facility still send paper bills by snail mail? According to the InstaMed Provider Trends in Healthcare Payments Survey, 70% of consumers report receiving bills in the mail, but only 9% want to pay that bill using a paper check. Asked for their preferred option, 91% of consumers want electronic payment methods for medical bills. Sending multiple bills before collecting payment is time-consuming and costly versus delivering patient bills electronically.
Paperless billing, or eStatements, is widely used and accepted by many industries. While many healthcare organizations offer eStatements as a billing option, they often struggle with adoption. Although 85% of consumers have the option to enroll in eStatements from their providers, only 3% have taken that step.
To increase adoption, make eStatements your preferred or default billing option. Communicate eStatements using email or text messaging, even before visits to prompt patients to enroll in this option before you mail a bill.
2. Adopt contactless registration and payment strategies
Simply put, consumers want digital and self-serve options wherever and whenever possible, and that includes healthcare payments.
But there is a wide disconnect between provider and consumer attitudes regarding the importance of digital options. Just under 40% of providers believe their billing and collection efforts have no impact on the patient experience. Yet, 49% of consumers – and 74% of millennials – said they would consider switching providers for a better healthcare payments experience.
Payment options such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and contactless EMV continue to grow in popularity, and healthcare organizations must be able to accept these options during in-person visits as well as through online channels.
Providers should select a vendor that understands the inherent complexities of both the payments and healthcare industries and has a proven track record of bringing cutting-edge payment technologies to market.
3. Offer payment plans to patients
Medical bills can add up quickly and overwhelm consumers. Many delay care because of cost, and 75% of consumers with health insurance are concerned about the financial hardship of medical bills. By offering payment plans, providers give patients the care they need and the flexibility to pay what is owed over time.
In terms of revenue cycle and collections, payment plans offer visibility into future cash flows and some measure of assurance that balances will be paid, which could be why more providers are offering this option. Between 2018-2021, the number of payment plans offered by the same set of providers on the InstaMed Network increased by 74%, growing an average of 20% per year. During 2019-2021, the number of automatic payments on the network increased 125%.
When Catholic Health in New York trained its financial clearance teams to offer patients payment plans pre-service, the number of payment plans increased by 50% while installment payments toward outstanding balances rose 102%.
4. Keep revenue cycle optimization top of mind
During times of financial turmoil, optimizing the revenue cycle can be the key to ensuring that sufficient funds are available. Adopting electronic processes for registration and payments and offering payment plans can generate revenue closer to the point of service and reduce A/R days.
The speed at which healthcare organizations can access their funds also makes a significant difference. Organizations that receive funds the same day or next business day can manage funds more efficiently, free up working capital, and understand cash positions in real-time. Healthcare leaders should evaluate the organization’s revenue cycle to discover ways to accelerate cash flow and improve staff efficiencies.
5. Reduce reconciliation times to increase cash flow
When was the last time your organization optimized its technologies related to billing and payments? Organizations often adopt point solutions to solve specific problems or take advantage of specific possibilities, but disparate point solutions often increase manual processes, introducing errors into reconciliation.
Consolidating healthcare payments into a single vendor simplifies the process and saves time and costs related to reconciling payments. Through vendor consolidation, Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin decreased reconciliation time by 80% while increasing overall payment transactions by 46%. Leaders estimate they save 250 labor hours per year through more streamlined reconciliation processes.
6. Emphasize resiliency and scalability
The keys to efficient operations include building resiliency and scalability into your processes and technology solutions to handle the inevitable bumps that every organization encounters. Healthcare financial leaders should evaluate billing and payment technologies to ensure that they can support growth initiatives, weather any potential challenges, and help achieve any strategic goals. Consider working with a vendor partner who understands your organization’s strategic goals, can transform your treasury organization, and whose software works seamlessly with other technologies to support robust end-to-end solutions.
7. Maintain vigilance on security risks
Healthcare remains an attractive target for cyber criminals, a combination of valuable personal information that can be used to create new identities and hundreds (if not thousands) of potential entry points among software systems. According to the Office for Civil Rights, nearly 700 healthcare breaches of more than 500 records were reported in 2022, resulting in the compromise of more than 50 million patient records.
A cyber-attack can cause millions in damage in real and reputational costs. Organizations should look for vendors who are certified not only by healthcare standards organizations but also by payments security and compliance organizations.
Amid the critical challenges that healthcare providers faced during the pandemic, they may not have recognized the shift in consumer attitudes toward self-service and digital service and payment options. Consumers make care choices based on these digital options, and providers should be embracing these options wholeheartedly.
Catering to consumers can increase patient satisfaction and loyalty, and digital payment options can streamline practice workflows, increasing revenue and shortening the interval between medical service and payment.
Deirdre Ruttle is chief marketing and commercialization officer, InstaMed, a J.P. Morgan company, and head of healthcare payments marketing, J.P. Morgan